C) Ethics and Property
Ethics and property
The fundamental difference from Earth is that, on the OboxPlanet, individuals have the autonomy to decide how they use their property, free from the influence of politicians and bureaucrats. As Lord Acton pointed out, “It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people to govern others. Every man is the best, the most responsible, judge of his own advantage.”
This raises the question: What is considered people’s own advantage, and what would individuals do if politicians did not interfere? Who would take care of the less fortunate, the elderly, the sick and would there be philantropy to replace the many state subsidies of “public goods” like arts, universities and public transportation?
In the present day, the state—comprising lawmakers and bureaucrats—exerts control over approximately half of all goods produced annually and intervenes in our daily lives from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep. They establish rules on building houses, streets, and workplaces, interfere in contracts, and license numerous occupations and products. These state-imposed restrictions lead to relative impoverishment; in other words, without these limitations, everyone would be much wealthier.
What would you do if the state would return all the tax money, if you had roughly double of our income today? Would you spend it all on yourself, to buy more food and additional cars? History provides a clear and compelling lesson: as people accumulate more wealth, they tend to show greater concern for their fellow humans, animals, general welfare, nature conservation, and the environment.
The Industrial Revolution, less than three hundred years ago, serves as a striking example. Before this period, much of humanity lived at a subsistence level, always one harvest away from starvation. With the gradual increase in wealth, people began investing in various humane and significant projects. Despite the 19th century being relatively poor by today’s standards, even in affluent countries like England, numerous cities, canals, train tracks, sea transport services, and social institutions such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross were established. These were predominantly funded and initiated by private individuals.
The newly affluent industrialists and merchants left lasting legacies in the form of hospitals, universities, libraries, parks, concert halls, operas, and research laboratories.
Let’s turn back to the OboxPlanet. In the discovery-lab “wealth creation” on this website we can learn why the inhabitants of the OboxPlanet are significantly wealthier than those on Earth. Since you are probably among the privileged class of humans on Earth today, on the OboxPlanet, your disposable income might “only” be a few times more than your current income, let’s say 5 to 10 times higher. For the least affluent individuals on the OboxPlanet, the difference to the poorest on earth is much more dramatic. We can safely assume that they would enjoy about your living standard on Earth today.
For the most affluent inhabitants of the OboxPlanet, the spirit of philanthropy and the desire to “build monuments” for future generations is unchanged since the 19th century, but with many times more resources than on Earth. Now it’s Christmas for you. Wish for any “public goods” you would want to see financed. Nature conservation parks? Longevity research? Space exploration and travel? Free education, health care and social security for those who cannot afford it?
You can find just about all that you can imagine realized on the OboxPlanet.
By the way, imagining a tenfold increase in average income may seem challenging, but reflecting on the historical context provides perspective. Consider that the average income in England today is approximately 40 times higher than it was 250 years ago. If you were to tell someone from 1750 that average incomes would rise 40 times, it would likely be even more difficult for them to imagine. Therefore, while a tenfold increase might seem ambitious, it’s not unprecedented when looking at the trajectory of historical economic growth.
In the introduction, we asserted that wealth, philanthropy, and the aspiration to achieve a sort of immortality through charitable acts would result in the voluntary funding of various “public needs” by wealthy individuals. The key rationale for this belief is based on examining historical events, particularly those of the 19th century. So, let’s take a closer look at this historical period for a more detailed understanding.
The following statistic illustrates the dramatic facts of this unique event in human history.
The basic facts up to 1750 reveal a global pattern: virtually all countries throughout history lived in close proximity to the starvation level, a situation often referred to as the “Malthusian trap.” In this trap, when there were favorable harvests, more people would survive, leading to population growth. Conversely, during harsh times, people would starve, resulting in a decline in population.
During this period, rulers had limited flexibility to impose high taxes or engage in excessive spending. If taxes exceeded a few percentage points, the population would face the risk of starvation, leaving rulers with little room for financial maneuvering. The Malthusian trap reflected the delicate balance between food production and population size.
Around 1750, England became the first society in history to break free from the Malthusian trap permanently. This breakthrough was a result of a combination of technological innovations and political circumstances that allowed for increased production per person. Initially, this led to more people surviving, though just barely. However, shortly thereafter, average income began a slow but steady increase—something unprecedented in human history.
While we might perceive a doubling of income, such as going from $2 per day in 1800 to $4 per day in 1900, as a choice between two forms of hardship, it represented an entirely new reality for the people affected. This improvement protected them from starvation even in challenging years, marking the first time in history that such resilience was achieved. Additionally, it paved the way for the development of a middle class and the rise of wealthy entrepreneurs.
People during the 19th century, benefiting from increased wealth and experiencing relatively little state influence compared to today, directed their newfound prosperity in various ways. Middle and high incomes grew at rates even faster than average wages. While entrepreneurs and the expanding middle class spent considerable sums on personal consumption, there was also an explosion of private initiatives during this period.
Many of the great public institutions we recognize today were founded during the 19th century, and they were primarily financed by voluntary contributions. The legacy of charity institutions like the Salvation Army and privately funded “public goods” such as universities, libraries, hospitals, parks, and conservation efforts still influences and benefits society today. The philanthropic spirit of that era played a crucial role in shaping enduring institutions that continue to contribute to the public good.
What experiences on Earth, past and present, help us understand life on the OboxPlanet?
We claimed that along with increasing wealth, people, especially the wealthy, become generous, some motivated by benevolence, others by fame in posterity. As soon as the Industrial Revolution got going, there was an outpour of philantropic endevors which lay the groundwork of great institutions whose legacy we still profit from. Among these are Harvard Medical School: Founded in 1782, Harvard Medical School is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States, and is known for its excellence in medical education and research.
Harvard Medical School: Founded in 1872
ohns Hopkins University: Founded in 1876 by Johns Hopkins, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist.
Smithsonian Institution: Founded in 1846 by James Smithson, an English scientist and philanthropist, the Smithsonian is a group of museums and research centers located in Washington, D.C. that house collections of art, history, and science.
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Founded in 1870 by a group of American citizens, this museum in New York City is one of the largest and most comprehensive art museums in the world.
University of Chicago: Founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Founded in 1861 by William Barton Rogers,
Stanford University: Founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford, a railroad magnate and former governor of California.
Mayo Clinic: Founded in 1889 by Dr. William Worrall Mayo and his sons.
Carnegie Mellon University: Founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie,
Rockefeller University: Founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller.
And here some social institutions
International Red Cross – founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1863, this organisation aimed to provide aid to wounded soldiers in times of war and promote humanitarian values.
Salvation Army – founded in London in 1865, this organisation is a Christian charity that provides aid and support to those in need.
Now it’s your turn.
If you were extremely rich, what would you support?
Things we could learn and implement from the OboxPlanet:
Scale back the state everywhere to free private initiative and benevolence.
John Stossel: Private Disaster Relief is Better Than FIMA